Get vaccinated or get suspended without pay — these are the options left for priests on the Greek island of Lesvos, following orders from the local bishop.
Bishop Iakovos of Mytilene gave the ultimatum to 35 of the island’s 83 priests in a letter, Greek media report.
“I am ordering you to get the vaccine against coronavirus within a week. Otherwise you will be suspended without pay until you do so,” Metropolitan Bishop Iakovos told the priests.
The bishop’s order follows an incident involving one of the priests on the island, who is said to have been infected when he officiated a service on the October 26 feast day of St. Dimitrios and distributed communion to the faithful, resulting in the spread of the virus in his parish.
It is unconfirmed whether the said priest knew he had contracted the virus.
According to Greek state broadcaster ERT, a number of the 35 unvaccinated priests are known deniers of the COVID-19 pandemic and have urged their flock not to wear masks, including in churches.
Bishop Chrysostomos of Dodoni, near Ioannina, has taken a similar stance to that of Iakovos, publicly defending a vaccine mandate for clergymen.
“Anyone receiving salary from the state should be obliged to get vaccinated,” he the MEGA channel. “Should they choose not to they should have their salary withheld.”
“Is it even possible to be a priest and not get vaccinated? Letting people die whilst hoping God will save them?” Bishop Chrysostomos said.
Last week, the Greek Church’s governing body urged faithful to receive a negative coronavirus test before coming to church.
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